I Ran A Red Light


stoplights at twilightA month ago I ran a red light. Generally running a red light is not something a person does intentionally, but in my case, and to my shame, I knew exactly what I was doing.

I’d met a group of friends for dinner, and we were carpooling to another location, following the one who knew the area best. I was the third car down the line. Our leader came to a red light at a T intersection on a stretch of road that seemed quite deserted. She stopped but, with only the slightest hesitation, proceeded to accelerate through the intersection.

What? I thought. She just ran a red light!

The driver in front of me pulled up, looked for oncoming traffic–and there still were no cars in sight apart from another stopped car in the lane next to ours. Driver number two accelerated through the intersection.

By this time, I’m beside myself. What am I supposed to do? The lead car is quickly distancing itself from me, and the driver of the vehicle behind me–also a part of our caravan–might well be growing anxious about the separation. I pretty much know the way to our destination, so does it really matter if I lose track of the lead car?

On the other hand, this light is red, and there is NO traffic, except for us suckers sitting there waiting for it to turn. What if the light is broken? That’s probably it! My friend who arrived at the light first and who knows this area probably came this way earlier and realized the light is broken. It must be broken.

And I accelerated through the intersection.

But what would the car behind me do? Would that friend run the red light too? I glanced in my rear view mirror. Sure enough, with a moment’s hesitation, she sped to catch up–just as the light turned green.

Further down the block, the first two cars in our caravan were pulled over to the right waiting for the lost half of our group. We reconvened our line and off we went

When we all reached our destination, the lead driver asked, What happened to you? We thought we lost you.

I was sitting at the red light trying to decide if I should follow or wait for it to turn green, I explained.

What red light? she asked.

What red light? the driver of the second car said.

Uh, the light you both blew through.

Neither one of them had noticed that they were at a light. Perhaps because the road was so deserted or because of the T configuration of the intersection, they reacted as if they were at a stop sign.

But I knew I was running a red light.

And suddenly I felt as Adam may have felt.

Eve was deceived and ate the fruit God had warned against. Adam ate and knew what he was doing.

In the same way, I ran the red light, not because I was deceived, but because I didn’t want to be separated from my friends. I didn’t want to lose sight of the drivers ahead of me, and I didn’t want the driver behind me to be irritated with me for not following.

How much more would Adam have determined he didn’t want to be separated from Eve? He already knew there was no other suitable partner for him. And he knew God had fashioned Eve especially for him. How could he lose her now?

I wonder what justification he gave himself? Was he already formulating the “God made her and gave her to me, so He can’t fault me for doing what I need to do to stay with her” argument?

It’s impossible to know the particulars of his thought process. But I know from my own experience I felt in a clear way, the pressure to stay with the group even if it meant running a red light. I can only imagine how much more pressure Adam felt.

I wish I could say I chose obedience instead of conformity, but I didn’t. I responded no differently than Adam did. Which puts to death the argument that it’s preposterous for all Humankind to suffer because one guy slipped up.

I have no doubt that I would have eaten if I was in that garden and some other deceived person–my own Adam perhaps, or my good friends Adam and Eve–had taken a bite and handed fruit to me.

Published in: on October 18, 2013 at 5:18 pm  Comments (4)  
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The Connection Between Humility And Obedience


sad_snot-nosed_kid“Fool! You fool!” the five-year-old shouted. As it turned out, he was talking to his mother. She didn’t reprimand him for the name calling or for the disrespect. Instead she asked him if his father gave him sugar that morning. He growled in reply. She asked again and he growled again. Finally she asked him why he was making those noises. He said, “I’m a monster,” and proceeded to growl a few more times. At last his mother told him to stop being a monster. He growled in reply.

Is there a connection between this five-year-old’s disobedience and his disrespect for someone in authority? I think absolutely. Philippians tells us that Jesus humbled Himself by becoming obedient (2:8), and Hebrews tells us He learned obedience through suffering.

Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. (5:8)

Jesus was not disobedient until he learned obedience. Rather He was sovereign, the One others obeyed. Being God, He was not in a position to obey anyone else. So when He came to earth, He needed to learn.

Suffering was the means by which He learned, and humility was the outgrowth of this obedience.

So here’s a thought. If suffering leads to obedience that leads to humility, then it makes sense that withheld punishment leads to increased disobedience that leads to pride. Consequently, when parents withhold punishment from their children who are disobedient, they are missing an opportunity to teach them humility. In short, they are enabling their child’s pride.

Ah, yes. Pride. Satan’s plaything. He loves to convince children they know as much or more than their parents, that they don’t have to listen or obey, that their way is as good or better than the way they’ve been instructed.

Those prideful little people, when left uncorrected, end up becoming prideful adults who may tell God they are nicer than He is, that they think He’s wrong to send people to hell, that His Word is outdated, irrelevant, intolerant. In other words, pride is at the heart of much of the apostasy in the western Church. Unlike Jesus, twenty-first century westerners have not learned humility through what we have suffered.

May God have mercy so that we learn humility at the hands of our parents rather than through the consequences a prideful people can accrue.

Published in: on January 28, 2013 at 6:24 pm  Comments (2)  
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Best Intentions


Best intentions really aren’t enough. Addicts often have the best intentions but can’t break the vise of their vice. Children frequently have the best intentions only to forget a few minutes later what it is their parents told them to do. I don’t doubt that Presidents and senators and representatives, governors, assemblymen, all have the best intentions to rule well and keep their campaign promises. Sadly, we know how that works out more times than not.

Clearly, intending to do well isn’t the same as doing well.

The people of Israel were a perfect example of this basic fact. They declared their intentions as they prepared to follow Joshua into the Promised Land:

They answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. (Joshua 1:16)

How quickly “all you have commanded” turned into Achan taking a bit of gold, some silver, and a fancy mantle–things Joshua, at God’s direction, had said Israel was not to take.

In the end, best intentions are only as good as the act of following through. It’s not enough to intend to serve others if we turn around and serve ourselves instead. It’s not sufficient to intend to obey God if we go our own way when we don’t like what He says. It’s not OK to intend to keep our promises if we break them when it’s more expedient to do so.

Are intentions worthless? No. They reveal our hearts at a moment in time. But our hearts are fickle, weak, wicked, and deceptive. The person who says, “Mine isn’t” proves how deceived he is by his heart.

The point is, intentions need to be propped up by commitment which turns into action. God didn’t just intend to send a Redeemer, He actually committed Himself to that role, and then took on the form of Man and went to the cross to implement what He intended.

If we are to go beyond intentions–intending to obey God, to live righteously, to love our neighbors as ourselves–we will know we mean it when we commit and start.

The people of Israel intended to possess the Promised Land. They couldn’t stand on the bank of the Jordan and simply intend to conquer Jericho. The priests needed to step into the water and the people needed to walk to the other side with a wall of water billowing up beside them. They needed to march around the city for days, and they needed to charge ahead once the walls were down.

Best intentions? They aren’t worthless. But they aren’t really even a start. They are hopes, plans, and for the Christian, the perfect thing to take to God in prayer.

Published in: on October 5, 2012 at 6:29 pm  Comments Off on Best Intentions  
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Jacob Was No Abraham


Abraham wasn’t perfect, but he was pretty amazing. Leave your home, God said. Where to? Abraham asked. Just go until I tell you to stop. So off he went “as the Lord had spoken to him.”

When it was clear that his and his nephew Lot’s animals couldn’t pasture together any longer, he unselfishly gave Lot the pick of the land.

Later he pleaded with God to be merciful to Sodom on behalf of Lot and his family. Six times he interceded for them.

When God told him to circumcise every male in his household, he took care of it the very same day.

When Sarah wanted to send Hagar and Ishmael away, Abraham objected, but God told him to listen to Sarah. So “Abraham rose early in the morning,” packed them up, gave them provisions, and sent them on their way.

One boy gone, but then God tells him to sacrifice the son of promise. “So Abraham rose early in the morning,” took wood, fire, and his son and set off. Three days later they came to the place where God told him to go. (Good thing Abraham listened since that’s where the ram was that would become the substitute sacrifice).

Compare this to Jacob. He swindled his brother out of his birthright, lied to his dad and fooled him into thinking he was his twin in order to obtain his brother’s blessing, manipulated his uncle’s animals to procure the best for himself, and sneaked away without saying goodbye.

On top of that, as he’s returning home, he gets word that his brother–who, rumors said, planned to kill him–is on his way to meet him, with four hundred men. So Jacob, brave man that he is, sends a gift, divides his people and property in two, with the hopes that at least half of them could get away, and puts it all in front of him.

Interesting, though. He had an encounter with God and the next morning he changed things up–putting himself ahead of his family and falling on his face before Esau.

He’s learning.

But he made more mistakes, most notably favoring Joseph, Rachel’s firstborn. To be fair, he learned about favoritism from his parents. His mother Rebekah favored him–which is why she came up with the idea for him to steal his brother’s blessing–and his father Isaac favored Esau. So Jacob is carrying on the family tradition. It’s just that it didn’t sit well with the ten older brothers. They eventually kidnap Joseph, sell him, and report to Jacob that they found his bloody coat.

Believing Joseph to be dead, Jacob shifts his protection and possibly his favor to his youngest, Benjamin. Fast forward years later, and famine forces Jacob to send his sons to Egypt to buy food–all except Benjamin. Unbeknown to the brothers, Joseph is the man they buy from, and he tells them not to return unless their youngest brother is with them.

Time passes, food dwindles, the famine continues, and Jacob won’t sent Benjamin. Ruben tries to give his father assurances, to no avail. Judah tries and is turned down, but finally things grow desperate, and Jacob relents. Here’s the big turning point of his life, I believe. He went from saying

“My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow” (Gen 42:38)

to saying

“may God Almighty grant you compassion in the sight of the man, so that he will release to you your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved” (Gen 43:14)

It took him a long time to get there. In the meantime, God gave him the same promise He had given Abraham and Isaac–one not connected with the blessing he stole. He also protected him from his uncle and from his brother, appeared to him more than once in visions and dreams and perhaps even as the pre-incarnate Christ. And at last, he stopped grabbing and grasping and holding on. He opened his hand and relinquished his son. Only then did he receive Joseph back, alive and well.

Two patriarchs–one quick to obey, the other oh, so slow. One willing to give up his sons, the other holding on as if he could care for them better than God. In the end, God used them both, but I can’t help but think Abraham took the better road.

Published in: on August 31, 2012 at 6:36 pm  Comments Off on Jacob Was No Abraham  
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Who Wants To Be A Slave


Human trafficking is a blight on society, and no period in American history is more reprehensible than the years of legalized slavery before the Civil War. But the Bible records a thing called bond-slavery, which turns out to be a sort of voluntary slavery for life.

There were various reasons a person in the Old Testament times might choose to be a bond-slave, but the significant thing is, this is the term the New Testament writers frequently use in connection with the Christian.

Peter, for example, says, “Act as free men, but do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond-slaves of God. (1 Peter 2:16)

Christ, of course, said we are no longer servants but sons, heirs of the kingdom. And yet, apparently we are to use our freedom–our release from the bondage of the Law–for God in a way that serves Him as opposed to serving ourselves.

One of the things that sets Christians apart from those involved in other religions is this unique relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ. He adopts us as sons and we are to act like bond-slaves. He gives us an inheritance and we show Him love with our obedience.

Who signs up for this? Don’t sons get to revel in their kingly father’s wealth and power and prestige?

The thing is, being a bond-slave to someone who has your best interest at heart is not burdensome.

Still, it rubs the independent-minded, free-spirited American the wrong way to say, become a Christian so you can be God’s slave for life.

Maybe the metaphor of the cross is easier. You know, take up your cross and follow me. Except, the cross was an instrument of death. Other scripture confirms this point. Christians are to die to self, to the world, to sin.

Bond-slave or death. Neither one sounds like something you’d put on the slick media release when you’re trying to get thousands and thousands to sign up for your cause.

But that’s the thing. Christianity isn’t a cause. It’s adoption, with God as the Father who called, chose, brought us into His family. Our response? I’ll be His bond-slave.

Yes, I have all the privileges of a child, but not a spoiled one. One that is growing and maturing in order to be a true reflection of my Father. The only way that can happen here, what with my sin nature, is if I live as a bond-slave.

It’s one of those amazing things that God alone can do–Christians are not burdened by laws; we are freed and forgiven. Yet, now that we don’t have to do anything to be reconciled to God, we want to serve Him in joyful, thankful response.

Published in: on July 16, 2012 at 7:31 pm  Comments (6)  
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The Disobedient Harry Potter


Earlier this week I said critics of Harry Potter had two main complaints, one being the issues of wizardry and the second being Harry’s disobedience.

It’s true that Harry is not The Perfect Boy, but I wonder about this as a reason not to read the books. As I recall, Tom Sawyer wasn’t the perfect boy either, nor was Huck Finn. Ann Shirley wasn’t the perfect girl and neither was Jo March. To bring the discussion back to fantasy, Edmund Pevensie wasn’t the perfect boy, and his sister Lucy, as lovable as she is, happens to fall sort of being the perfect girl, too.

The point is, if readers are only going to pick books with perfect characters, then we all must stop reading fiction. Stephen Burnett in a post at Spec Faith does a brilliant job deconstructing this argument:

Jesus told parables in which people behave badly, using those to show points about His Kingdom and the natures of those who’ll dwell there…

[Examine this criticism] Harry Potter is a scoundrel. So was King David, the apostle Paul, and every person before Christ saved us (and quite a lot afterward, too!). Even for stories, whence comes this sudden rule that characters must behave perfectly? Jesus did not follow that “rule.” Instead He told stories about ten virgins behaving “selfishly” (Matt. 25: 1-13) and a shrewd money manager (Luke 16: 1-13), not to say “imitate all their behavior” but to say My Kingdom is coming; you’d best respond accordingly. (Anyway, Harry doesn’t stay a scoundrel; he grows, as part of a much bigger story.)

Because Christ Himself in his parables did not follow these “rules” for Christ-figures and moral behavior, why might we expect more of Potter?

Of course there is disobedience that serves to warn and there is disobedience that trumpets rebellion, so one might argue that when books do the latter, they should be shunned.

Does Harry Potter trumpet rebellion? I suppose the answer might be somewhat subjective, but I think I can build a case for the opposite. Harry Potter is not rebellious unless you think standing up to evil is rebellious.

Some of his teachers saw the Big Picture and understood the serious threat that Harry alone was qualified to fight. They counseled him and protected him as best they could, and at times that included extending him mercy. At other times, he faced just punishment. Never was he applauded for disobeying, however.

The overall impression, in my opinion, is that Harry obeyed as best he could.

He was shamefully abused by his uncle and aunt, yet early on he submitted to them. There came a time when he did stand up to them, yet in the end he righted the relationship to the best of his ability. If anything, his relationship with his relatives shows the growth in his character.

Some of the adults in Harry’s life were misguided and some were evil. Some Harry suspected of being evil but didn’t know for sure. Again, as best he could, he obeyed those in authority over him. When he disobeyed, he did so because he believed he was advancing good or standing against evil.

To discuss whether or not he should have made himself the authority to determine who he should or should not obey is similar to a discussion of whether or not Christians should have obeyed the Nazis.

Today the church is fiercely criticized for complying with Hitler’s forces. But I suspect at the time many believed they were doing the right thing to obey the authority over them.

Regardless of a person’s conclusion about Harry Potter’s virtue, I believe the books and movies offer rich opportunities to discuss just such matters. I can’t help but think society is better off if we discuss a topic like obedience after having read Harry Potter rather than something like vampire love after having read a certain set of popular books that escaped the vitriol aimed at the boy wizard.

Published in: on July 20, 2011 at 6:47 pm  Comments (11)  
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To Please Or To Become Pleasing, That Is The Question


I want to address an issue that came up not long ago in a comment here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. The post was “Grace Works Versus Law Works” and the comment, in part, said this:

You say, “We don’t obey to become pleasing to God, but to please God.” …

I have never done a good work thinking I’d please God. I would say we don’t do good works to become pleasing to God, but because he has become pleasing to us. In other words, I am so happy because of the grace God has given me, that I can’t help myself. The happiness bubbles out of me. That’s when I feel like I’m doing good works with the right motivation. When I’m doing them because I’m so pleased with God….

He’s commanded me to obey. It’s never crossed my mind that he’s pleased with my obedience….

So here’s my question. Do any of you have favorite verses about God being … pleased with us that I can look at and study?

First, I agree that we don’t do good works to become pleasing to God. The distinction I made in my post was between doing good works to become pleasing to God (works done because of law) and doing good works to please God (works done because of grace).

There’s nothing I can do to become pleasing to God. Not only would my motives be wrong in doing good, my efforts would be futile. My nature is sinful, and all the cleaning up I do amounts to rearranging dirt, not genuine washing.

For the person who believes, the work Christ did on the cross changes everything. Before, as we see in Romans 7, the wanting to do good was in me, but the doing ended up being that which I hated — and that which God hated, I might add.

Because of the new nature God gave me, because of the Holy Spirit in me, and because of the strength Christ provides me, I can now do the good I want to do. And why do I want to do good? To earn points with God? get jewels for my future crown? earn a spot closer to the throne?

No. The issue is still not about be becoming good or better or pleasing. Who I am in Christ is fixed. But because of what Christ has done, my response, as is true in any love relationship, is to want to give in return for what has been given me.

In one of the most amazing aspects of God’s love for us, He who needs nothing from us, asks something of us so that we can joyously give to Him as an expression of our love. Hence, my desire — a growing desire, not a fully mature thing — is to please Jesus.

Here are some of those favorite verses that touch on pleasing God:

I Thessalonians 4:1 – “Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.”

II Corinthians 5:9 – “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”

Colossians 1:10 – “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

Ephesians 5:8-10 – “for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.”

Pleasing God, as I see it, is all about getting to know Him.

Young people in love do this same thing. Does he like his coffee black or with cream, pie for dessert or cake, the beach or the mountains, football or golf, Hondas or Chevys, and on and on.

Why learn all these things? In order to provide him with what he wants, in order to choose his preferences, in order to please him as often as possible.

When I stand before God washed of my sins, that should spark in me a response — more and more I should like what He likes, do what He does, speak as He speaks. When I do, I am not more pleasing to God, but He is pleased.

Published in: on July 1, 2011 at 6:06 pm  Comments (3)  
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Holiness In Practice


Now comes the hard part. After establishing that Jesus calls us to more than external obedience and that true holiness begins in our hearts, I can’t dust off my hands and leave the topic as if I’ve covered all the bases … or even all the important ones.

The fact is, the Bible does say a lot about how we are to live, and in the end, that last day Jesus spent with His men, He said, If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. Apparently God wants us to obey Him even though our salvation doesn’t depend on our working to earn His favor.

He wants us to obey, I submit, the same way a parent wants a child to obey. It’s good for the little, ignorant rug rat. 😉 Seriously, God’s commands are good for us, and not only for us as individuals but for the church and for our witness in the world.

Take this ONE command, for example, something probably most of us blow off as insignificant:

Do all things without grumbling or disputing (Phil 2:14).

Imagine living without grumbling. Imagine life without disputes. Yes, obedience to that one simple command would have a profound impact. Paul doesn’t leave it to our imagination. He tells us what would result:

[Don’t argue or complain] so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world (Phil. 2:15)

Seriously! Blameless and innocent, shining as lights in the world. Well, isn’t that what Christ said we were to be back in His sermon on the mount? Lights shining before men so that they see our good works and glorify our Father.

The point is, our heart attitude can’t stay inside. It can’t be our little secret. We can’t be undercover Christians. At some point, our relationship with God through Christ must spill out of our lives and splash onto our neighbors.

That’s pretty much what the whole book of James is about. Our faith — our inner spiritual life, our relationship with God — is only real if it gets up and walks.

Writers talk about cardboard characters versus the desirable kind — three dimensional ones that seem alive. Faith is like that, without the “seem.” Real faith is alive and therefore will show signs of life. James names three chief areas.

First we’ll be doers of the word, not merely hearers. In short, we’ll be obedient to God’s word. Second, we’ll bridle our tongues rather than deceiving our hearts. And third, we’ll be slow to anger, which means we won’t judge, quarrel with or complain about our “brother” — a term he uses consistently to refer to fellow Christians.

The first point alone can be overwhelming. If I read the Bible asking one thing — what in this passage must I obey — I can become paralyzed into inactivity because there’s too much. I’m not selfless enough to handle the one command from Philippians about not grumbling or complaining, let alone the ones about being a cheerful giver or being anxious for nothing or dwelling on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and of good repute.

When I realize this, I am pressed back into God where I must learn to stay. It is His strength that makes it possible for me to obey. It is the prompting of His Holy Spirit that makes me want to.

In short, obedience which leads to holiness is not a thing I can achieve apart from God, but if I love Him, I’m heading for the heights one shaky step at a time, holding onto Him as tight as if my life depended on Him. Which it does.

– – –

In order, the previous posts in this series are
“Holiness Is Not A Dirty Word”
“Holiness Means What Again?”
“Inside Out – The Way Of Holiness”

Published in: on June 2, 2011 at 5:50 pm  Comments Off on Holiness In Practice  
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Publishing Success


Recently Harvest House acquisitions editor Nick Harrison concluded a blog post with the following:

In my workshops I often mention that success for a writer is only about 60% writing ability. The other 40% is knowing the market, meeting editors and agents at conferences, and generally keeping up with what’s going on in the publishing world. Writers who do that will have an advantage over more talented writers who don’t or won’t do that.

In this article, Nick also says that a writer needs to tailor his writing to the particular needs of the publisher with whom he is seeking publication. Zondervan, for instance, he says, does well with suspense while Bethany and Harvest House do well with romance and Marcher Lord Press specializes in speculative.

Interesting observation. I know editors often say what they are looking for, but I don’t know that I had zeroed in on the idea of exclusivity before.

So I wonder, is it a wise decision to put all the eggs in one basket? Is it ideal to be In-and-Out specializing in burgers, fries, and milk shakes, or is it better to be KFC and start branching out past your niche?

For writers, is it better to seek publication with a house that specializes or one that diversifies? For some do. I thought of Thomas Nelson, a house that includes a wide variety of fiction. And WaterBrook, one of the publishers not afraid of speculative fiction (and doing quite well with at least some of their authors).

Earlier today I read author friend Mike Duran’s post about his path to publication. I found these lines refreshingly honest [note to Mike: you see? More than one person finds what you write refreshing 😉 ]:

Even after I’ve signed a two-book contract, I am still in the dark as to how I actually got here.

Part hard work. Part luck. Part divine guidance. I dunno.

I tend to think Mike falls into the paradigm that Nick Harrison described. He is a good writer, so he’s 60 percent there. He’s begun attending writers’ conferences and has been involved in the writing business for a number of years as an editor at Midnight Diner, as a guest blogger at Novel Journey, and any number of other activities. Plus he writes the kind of speculative fiction that Strang (his publisher) seems to prefer and the market currently favors (a darker, urban kind of supernatural fantasy—though I may be wrong about characterizing Mike’s work in those terms since I haven’t actually read his book yet).

But here’s the thing. As the Dilbert cartoon I posted a couple days ago says, marketing is part guess work.

Nick Harrison suggests that a writer might be talented enough to study trends and figure out what readers will want in three years. But that’s a guess. No writer will know if another 9/11 will hit before their book goes to press or if another economic event will change the climate of the publishing industry or another technological advance or … or … or …

So I’m not buying it. We writers don’t know enough, I don’t think. We can’t know enough.

I’ve seen some writers publish (with great elation since they’ve been working for years to perfect their writing) only to have disappointing sales and no additional contract. Initially when they got The Call, it looked as if they’d crossed the magic line and had “made it.”

But I think the line keeps moving. At least if “the line” refers to the same way the rest of our culture measures success.

I think God measures success differently. Sometimes He brings the kind of success the world hankers after as a residual of the real kind of success. Sometimes not.

Gideon experienced both. In spite of—or maybe because of—insurmountable odds, he lead a handful of fighters to a stunning victory against Israel’s oppressors. But the real victory came when he believed God and obeyed His call to go, to par down his army, and to employ tactics that can only be called strange.

The point was, no one, least of all Gideon, could miss the fact that God gave him the victory. It really wasn’t possible any other way.

Maybe, just maybe, God wants to do more impossible things today if we’re willing to give Him that first victory—our trust, our obedience.

Published in: on October 25, 2010 at 6:00 pm  Comments (3)  
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Living By The Terms Of The Treaty


When I was growing up, Saturday afternoon meant old B movies on TV, often something western. One particular story has stayed with me.

What history calls The Indian Wars dominated the West. Settlers and miners and railroad men and soldiers clashed with any number of Indian groups, from Chickasaw to Seminole.

In this particular story, a compassionate and understanding American, with a number of Indian friends, was convinced to take the position as agent for what was the equivalent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As part of his job, he was required to negotiate an acceptable treaty with the tribes waring against the US government.

Against all odds, he was successful—except, treaties needed to be ratified by the Senate. The political climate at the time was against him, and rather than agreeing to the terms he had promised the Indians, the government sent troops to implement the Indians’ forced removal from their land.

The story stayed with me because I felt the betrayal this Indian agent experienced—as both the betrayed and the betrayer. He was let down by the government that said it would stand behind his negotiations (the stipulation he demanded as the condition for him taking the position as Indian agent). As a result, in the eyes of the people who had trusted him, he became their Brutus.

It struck me recently that professing Christians who take up with false teachers are like those politicos in that old-time movie. They say they will abide by whatever their representative decides, but when the terms of the agreement come down, they don’t really want to keep their word. They find some way of changing the rules, of canceling the treaty.

In essence, they leave their representative hanging out to dry. The world, to whom He has gone, point and laugh.

    Ha-ha, they say they love, but look at the nasty things they put on their signs when they picket the streets.

    They say they don’t love the world or the things of the world, but listen to how greedy their preachers are.

    They say they live like Jesus, but they have marital breakups, addictions, bad debt, carry grudges, sneer and snark, just like the rest of us.

When we who bear the name of Christ, do not obey Him, we aren’t much better. Our disobedience affects how others look at Jesus in the same way that a false Christian’s inconsistencies end up staining the name of Christ.

I’m reminded of an Old Testament incident recorded in 2 Chronicles 18. Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, allied himself with Ahab, king of Israel. When they were preparing for war, Jehoshaphat wanted to inquire of a prophet of the Lord.

All the other prophets said the kings would have great success if they prosecuted the war, but the one prophet of the Lord Jehoshaphat insisted they bring in, said they would meet with defeat.

And what did Jehoshaphat do? He ignored the prophet of the Lord.

Why, I’ve wondered, did he bother to ask for the man to speak a message from God if he wasn’t planning to listen?

Then too, why do people today take up the name of Christ and ignore His Word?

But that forces me to ask, do I ignore His Word, too—at least the parts I don’t like? Things like, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing”?

I guess the question I need to ask is this: how much do I care about the reputation of He who I say I’m following?

Published in: on September 20, 2010 at 6:37 pm  Comments (2)  
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